I've never loved football. Ok, this might be a weird way to start my World Cup story, but just wait. So, as I was saying – I was never into football and never really got why people get so excited about it. It's just guys running from one side to another, chasing the ball, right? Oh, how I was wrong.
I've started feeling that football fever slowly from the beginning of the World Cup and I didn't ever notice the symptoms – first, I started watching the matches that weren't even related to Croatia. Then, I started yelling at screen while our team was playing. I jumped higher that I know I could when we scored. I almost cried when we won… Ok, I cried. A little.
What made this championship different than any other? Why everybody turned to football lovers? Can we even explain it? We could try! It's the energy. Love. Atmosphere. Unity. Euphoria. Belief. Pride. Happiness. Madness. It's all of that and much more, all million times stronger each time our team won – and they won just about right number of times to make us the nation at the edge of the heart attack.
We were all as one, as cheesy as it sounds, but honestly Croatia turned into one big football fan. Not everybody was so delighted by it, of course, but that's ok – let's not worry about that now.
I never felt and maybe never will this kind of pride and unity. I was too young to enjoy 1998 when Croatia was third, but had the great luck to be a part of this collective happiness. To stand in the crowd, while we all sing as one, all wearing colours of our country, while our flags are flying all around. To hug a stranger, or even two, ok three (you could see that we are a huggy nation), because we are the SECOND NATION IN THE WORLD. To watch the live homecoming for hours and I mean hours – to see how a million people welcome our beautiful players. To fall in love with them. To feel blessed, touched and overwhelmed.
This is Croatia. A small country, with a heart bigger than this world, with a soul that was left on the field. With people that can join together and share their happiness – everywhere. They told us that we are dreaming, but now we see that we are living the dream. Maybe tomorrow we'll wake up from it. Maybe we'll remember all our problems then. But we'll always remember this moment, when we were on top of the world. When we shared our focus, when we had hope. When we surprised everybody. When we were the happiest nation in the world. What a time to be alive. What a time to be Croatian!!!!